This was no parade of extras. In recent days Queens saw two star players in the borough’s unending political scandals march off to prison to do time for committing unsavory deeds with the taxpayers’ money.
As former state Sen. Malcolm Smith and former state Assemblyman William Scarborough reported to jail, the Center for Public Integrity said New York state had the most corrupt lawmakers in the nation.
Smith, who represented southeast Queens in Albany, surrendered last weekend to begin a seven-year sentence on bribery and fraud charges for paying off supporters to land him a spot on the GOP ballot for mayor in 2014. The failed plot brought down two other pols in a clearly unhinged quest by a once-respected borough Democrat to sneak across the aisle.
Former Councilman Dan Halloran, a first-term Republican, is already doing 10 years for his role in the Smith caper and former Queens County GOP Chairman Vincent Tabone is in a holding cell awaiting assignment to his new penal address.
Of the 14 state lawmakers forced to leave office since 2011 because of criminal or ethical reasons, three were from Queens.
Former state Sen. Shirley Huntley, No.3, went to prison in 2013 when she was found guilty of stealing from a non-profit to underwrite shopping sprees. En route to the big house she secretly taped several colleagues in her Jamaica home.
Check back before 2011 and familiar names in the pantheon of Queens’ wayward politicians pop up: Hevesi, Monserrate, Seminario, McLaughlin. The legislators spent years in Albany on a career path to jail.
And on an even more sobering note, the list of 14 does not include former Assembly Majority leader Sheldon Silver and former state Senate leader Dean Skelos, both embroiled in corruption cases.
What a sorry state of affairs in New York, which got an overall D-minus grade in the Center for Public Integrity’s nationwide survey and flunked—yes, an F—on public access to information, electoral oversight and judicial accountability, among other categories. Sad as it is, New York state ranked 30th on the list and only three states earned better than D-plus in the report.
Corruption takes its toll: New York state ranks 46th in the country for voter turnout, a statistic borne out by the paltry 15,000 vote total for last week’s City Council and Assembly elections in Queens.
Until we reform the Board of Elections and demand transparency in Albany, it will be business as usual in Queens and the parade of greedy wrongdoers will continue.